Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Gideon Levy: Are we like Sudan?

19 December 2009

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz – 18 Dec 2009

No one in Israel wants to see Tzipi Livni in jail. It is also not pleasant to think that she and other senior Israeli officials can not travel to Europe. But the red warning lights from various parts of the world cautioning that eventually someone may be arrested should arouse a different response than our aggressive and blind one.
Israel does not see the ugly hump on its back. Instead of reproaching half the world, the time has come for us to take a look at ourselves: Maybe we’re making a mistake, too? How ridiculous a propagandist Israel’s ambassador to London Ron Prosor sounded when he said this week that Britain has a problem; he also mocked “the way Britain looks.” After all, despite these characteristically arrogant remarks, we’re the ones with the problem with the way Israel looks.

How did this happen to us? Livni is now unable to travel to Britain and a number of other countries, as if she were the president of Sudan. It is not (only) the world, it is (also) us. The arrest threat was issued by the most enlightened of nations. They did so when they became aware that Israel was not investigating itself. Is this not enough to rock Israeli society, to cause it to shine a light on itself instead of reprimanding half the globe?

The Foreign Ministry has turned into the Furor Ministry. But there is no reason to censure the British ambassador – his country has a separation of powers – just as there was no reason to censure some of his colleagues: We reproached the Turkish ambassador because of a TV series, we reprimanded the Swedish ambassador because of a newspaper article, and we rebuked Norway for marking the 150th birthday of its greatest writer.

Not only is the whole world against us, we’re against the whole world – Israel is acting contrary to the standards of the new world. In his Nobel Prize speech this month in Oslo, U.S. President Barack Obama outlined three conditions for a just war: a last means of self-defense, the proportional use of force and refraining as far as possible from harming civilians. Even if there is disagreement over whether we met the first condition during Operation Cast Lead – which brought us arrest warrants and harsh reports – it’s hard to prove that the attack on Gaza met the other two criteria: our use of force was not proportional and we did not do enough to prevent harm to civilians.

Therefore the new world, justifiably, does not see Operation Cast Lead as a just war. Israel must internalize this. It cannot create separate standards for itself. There is no such thing as Israeli morals and international morals. There is only one morality of war, and it is represented in the international law that Israel is committed to. But time and again Israel breaks this law by establishing settlements and other acts of occupation, and by Operation Cast Lead.

The legal system in Britain is “distorted,” the Goldstone report “lies,” Amnesty International is “anti-Semitic” and Human Rights Watch is “hostile.” Even if we do accept these imaginary truths that we have automatically adopted, how is it that no suspicion creeps into our hearts that perhaps there is some truth to what our critics say? How is it that we accept the ruling of these international bodies about other countries – no one condemned Richard Goldstone in Yugoslavia or Rwanda, or Amnesty about Sudan – and only when the conclusions are about us do we refuse to accept them?

And how is it that Israel’s embarrassing excommunication does not give rise here to the thought that perhaps we, too, have some responsibility for the situation; that not only Goldstone is guilty but also Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Gabi Ashkenazi? Even if we assume that there were no war crimes, someone at least must bear responsibility for the refusal to investigate and the dangerous deterioration in Israel’s status.

The world treats Israel with strict standards. It has to act that way toward a country that sees itself as part of the family of nations. Israel very much enjoys its status as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” but this has a price. None of us wants them to treat us like Iran, North Korea or Hamas. For that we have to pay by meeting strict criteria. One year later, Israel has not even bothered to investigate the attack on Gaza as it should, as the world has demanded. There are no moral misgivings in Israel about the extent of the killing and destruction. Under these circumstances, it’s not possible to blame the world that is trying to arouse us from our moral stupor. We should have been the first to do so.

Livni does not deserve to sit in jail in Britain, but she has to be accountable here for her responsibility for the fatal blow to Israel’s status. Livni, who is enlightened, should also have been the first to call on us to take stock for the fact that our actinos have resembled Sudan’s. There is already one similarity between the two countries – both try to ignore the world’s attitude and show contempt for it.

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